From Nov. 30 to Dec. 16, Franklin County and Diocese of Columbus 8th, 10th and 12th graders will be asked to fill out a survey about their attitudes and use regarding violence, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; activities and behaviors; and school climate.

From Nov. 30 to Dec. 16, Franklin County and Diocese of Columbus 8th, 10th and 12th graders will be asked to fill out a survey about their attitudes and use regarding violence, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; activities and behaviors; and school climate.

Since 1988, the Primary Prevention Awareness, Attitude & Use Survey (PPAAUS) has been given every three years to Franklin County 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th grade students. Due to reduced funding, 6th graders will not be given the survey this year.

The survey was developed by the Safe and Drug Free Schools Consortium, a program of the Educational Council, which is a confederation of the 16 Franklin County school districts, whose superintendents approved administering the survey. The Consortium, the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs, and United Way of Central Ohio are principal funders of the survey.

PPAAUS is anonymous and voluntary, and parents may write a note requesting that their child not participate in the survey. Parents may see a copy of the survey at District Administrative Offices.

"The survey was developed to find out specific information from the students in Franklin County (concerning) their attitudes and perceptions on issues that affect them in their learning and their lives," said Kathy Windau, coordinator of the Safe and Drug Free Schools Consortium.

The survey takes 35 minutes to complete, Windau said. It consists of multiple-choice questions where the student fills in a circle. The 2006 PPAAUS consisted of 165 questions, one of which was, how often have you skipped class in the past year? The questions on this 8th PPAAUS are similar to past surveys, Windau said, but sometimes a new section have been added, like ones on bullying and respect.

Kenneth Steinman, clinical assistant professor at the Ohio State University College of Public Health, said he would like to see questions about teen dating violence included. "Many people don't appreciate how common and how consequential it is."

Steinman said he has worked closely with the Educational Council in helping develop past surveys and in publishing results in academic journals.

Of the 81,608 students who took the 2006 PPAAUS, a total of 78,333 surveys were used because 4 percent of the surveys were filtered out because of unreliable responses.

"There's a lot of evidence that suggests that some kids under-report how much they smoke or drink or engage in other risky behaviors," Steinman said. "Other kids over-report, and to make a long complicated story short, what you find is that overall, the prevalence rates are pretty accurate."

That means, for example, "when kids' smoking decreases, (you find that) cigarette sales in general decrease," Steinman said.

"Is it a perfect way of assessing this? Absolutely not. Is it still valuable and reasonably accurate? Definitely yes."

The accuracy of the survey "helps in a lot of ways," Windau said.

"First of all, it gives the school districts a snapshot of what their kids are thinking on the topics that are covered in the survey. It allows districts to develop programs to address this. Different agencies use it in (their) community to write grants that address issues that they're dealing with as well."

"I think these results can be useful in a couple of regards," Steinman said. "One is to highlight which issues schools and parents in the community should be spending the most emphasis on."

The PPAAUS also serves to track student trends from survey to survey, and compares local data with national data, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

"The main points are always consistent," Windau said.

In addition, "People often dismiss studies that are not local, and all it takes is one person to say 'It's different here'," Steinman said.

"People are much more likely to discount the validity of findings from a national study. So there is real value in investing in local data collection, even though the findings tend to be pretty similar to what you see nationally," Steinman said.

The surveys will be turned in to a research firm in Pennsylvania, which will collect and analyze the data. Reports for the county and each district will be prepared and released next spring, Windau said.